Renewing faith and devotion to Our Lady of the Candles

Renewing faith and devotion to Our Lady of the Candles
The Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria is considered the patroness of Western Visayas and believed to be miraculous by many Catholics. —PHOTOS BY ARNOLD ALMACEN

ILOILO CITY—Years into her marriage, Maria Fe Villanueva Esquillo had been without a child. But her frustration and seeming endless waiting were eased somehow by her constant prayers and supplications to Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria (Our Lady of the Candles) at the Jaro Metropolitan Cathedral.

“I asked for at least one child. Instead, the Lady of the Candles gave me three,” Nanay Fe, now 60, of Barangay Jibao-an in Pavia, Iloilo, told

Manila resident Kathy Kenny Ngo, blogger of Life is Kulayful, did not want a life of single-blessedness. “I prayed for the one,” she said. Her plea was answered in the most unexpected ways. 

Lighting a candle at the image’s shrine in the 400-year-old cathedral, she fervently prayed to meet “the one.” Within a week, she found him during a bloggers’ event in Singapore.

‘Bearer of Light’

Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria
Devotees of the Our Lady of the Candles gather at the 400-year-old Jaro Metropolitan Cathedral in Jaro, Iloilo City.

Catholic devotees seeking solace and blessings came in droves to the shrine on Feb. 2, the feast day of Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria. The celebration’s theme was “Virgen sang Candelaria, Tagdala sang Iwag kag Ubay sa Amon Pagpanglakaton bilang Simbahan” (Our Lady of Candles, Bearer of Light and Guide in our Journey as a Church).

The theme is worthy of reflection, Jaro Archbishop Jose Romeo O. Lazo said in his homily during the solemn pontifical Mass, “She introduced the light, which is Jesus, for sharing with others,” he said.

Rev. Fr. Angelo Colada, director of the Archdiocese of the Jaro Commission on Social Communication, amplified on the message celebrating Our Lady’s light and Jesus, saying: “We continue to carry that light to illumine our way to salvation. At the same time, He is also our guide and our model, especially as we embrace the virtue of humility and obedience to the will of God and salvation.” 

According to Lazo, the celebration was about the call of the Church to “synod on synodality, our journey as a Church, communion, participation, and mission.” He blessed the perdon candles and the Mass in a traditional rite after a procession from the Archbishop’s Residence to the cathedral. 

“The perdon symbolizes Christ, the light of the world, a symbol of hope, especially in this trying time, when the world seems to have been enveloped by darkness, anxiety, and fear brought about not only by the pandemic but by the challenges of every day, the calamities we experience, both natural and man-made,” the Social Communication posted on Facebook.


Prayers for Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria
Candles and prayers are offered to the Marian image.

The history of the image of Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria is rooted in legend and tradition, dating back to 1587. It is said that a group of fishermen fording the Iloilo River saw a floating statue of the Blessed Mother. Though it was heavy, the statue became miraculously light for the fishermen to bring to Jaro. Thus began the sacred journey of the image, which is deemed miraculous and venerated with faith and devotion to this day.

Stories of the statue that was enshrined in a modest niche near the pinnacle of the church’s central spire have become part of local lore. Eventually, the image found its rightful place in a glass encasement on a balcony.

Fe Esquillo attested to the miraculous favors she has received from Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria in the face of trials and tribulations. She has been offering novenas despite life’s challenges, including the loss of her husband and health complications.

Arnold Lata, 48, of Mambusao, Capiz, came to the celebration to pray for healthy children and a peaceful life.

A day before the pontifical Mass, Lazo led the traditional coronation of the Marian image, reenacting the act of then Pope (now Saint) John Paul II in February 1981 during his visit to the Philippines.

The image was named patroness of Western Visayas in 1982; the church was elevated into a national shrine on July 6, 2011. Eleven Masses were held at the St. John Paul II Hall and nine at the main altar on Feb. 2. —With a PNA report

Read more: Finding our way to happiness amid life’s difficulties

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